Ireland’s chance to improve on near-misses as they gear up for South Africa

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In an ideal and somewhat fairer cricket world, this kind of series would take place more often. An established Full Member would play a more recently anointed member every few years, not just for a World Cup and not just to fill a gap between series and it would be a standalone major event. Almost like South Africa’s tour of Ireland last year where they played three ODIs as part of the World Cup Super League and three T20Is, close but not as close as this one, to the T20I World Cup. But that doesn’t happen often and Ireland won’t be complaining about a chance to play more games against big names in what has finally been a busy season.

They have hosted India and New Zealand so far but are yet to win a T20I series under new coach Heinrich Malan, who will be known to the South Africans. Malan played some provincial cricket with Northerns before moving to New Zealand where he coached for almost a decade and then moved to Ireland. Though his team pushed their opponents to their limits, victory is still elusive.

Ireland ticked a big box when they qualified for the T20 World Cup in February, but have since lost six games, some of them heartbreaking. They had India close in the second game of their two-game series and posted a decent total against New Zealand in the third game of that rubber, but suffered a blowout in between when they were ejected for 91. Lucky for them, this series is not their last chance to tune in to the T20 World Cup. They will host Afghanistan for five T20Is next week, providing another opportunity to set things straight for a major tournament.
South Africa, on the other hand, doesn’t have much time to tinker. They will play against India in three T20Is just before the T20 World Cup and are likely to compete with their World Cup squad. That leaves only these two games to wrap up what becomes an increasingly complicated roster conundrum, but, as stand-in captain David Miller said, a problem of too many options than too few.
Most of the squad is in good shape, but Quinton de Kock will want to run in the shortest form, where he hasn’t had half a century in nine innings, and some reserves will be gasping for a chance. Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius and Rassie van der Dussen sat on the bench for the England series and are hoping to get a chance as the white ball portion of the UK tour of South Africa draws to a close.

Ireland LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWLLL

There is Harry Tector he is one of those under consideration for CSA’s new T20 competition and if the rumors are true, he will give South African fans a taste of what he can do. Known for hitting the ball cleanly, Tector flexed his muscles with an unbeaten 64 from 33 against India earlier this season, and he has enjoyed the summer of his career. He scored 384 in 14 ODIs at 76.80including two hundred in three games against New Zealand and three consecutive 1950s against the West Indies; and 249 runs in nine T20Is at 35.57. Tector also has deals with teams in the 6ixty and the CPL and is well on its way to becoming Ireland’s most sought-after franchise player.
These matches are probably the last chance for Reeza Hendriks and Rilee Rossouw to secure their places at the T20 World Cup. As South Africa’s most in-form top-order batters, it may seem unfair to let them prove themselves again, but with de Kock a sure starter, Temba Bavuma is likely to return from injury and options including Pretorius as a pinch-hitter on number 3 , the selectors were forced to choose between these two players. Better them than us. Hendricks has won three half-centuries in a row, Rossouw hit an intrepid 96* to enable South Africa to tie the series against England and see and touch the ball as well as ever.
Craig Young was ruled out of the series with a groin injury that could give former South African Under-19 player Graham Hume the chance for a T20I debut.

Ireland (possibly): 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 3 Lorcan Tucker, 4 Harry Tector, 5 Gareth Delany, 6 George Dockrell, 7 Curtis Campher, 8 Mark Adair, 9 Barry McCarthy, 10 Graham Hume, 11 Josh Little

With Kagiso Rabada injured, and three Tests against England looming, South Africa could have pace bowler rotation on their minds. That could mean a debut for Gerald Coetzee while Marco Jansen and all-rounders Parnell and Pretorius get a point. The batting line-up will likely remain unchanged, meaning that there will likely be no room for Van der Dussen.

South Africa (possibly): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Rilee Rossouw, 4 Aiden Markram 5 Tristan Stubbs, 6 David Miller (capt), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Anrich Nortje/Marco Jansen, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

With short straight boundaries and fairly short square ones, Bristol is a field where bowlers, and especially spinners, are pressured. England had their second-highest T20I score there last week, with over 400 runs being scored in their game against South Africa. Tabraiz Shamsi and Moeen Ali were the specialist bowlers who conceded the most runs and it will be interesting to see how Shamsi, who finished the series in England as the leading wicket taker, returns to this venue. For the big hitters, this is a place to show their strength and the likes of Tristan Stubbs and Paul Stirling will be looking for big statements. There will be some drizzle on Wednesday morning, but the forecast is dry for both games.

“We’ve shown that when we come up against these teams, we are able to challenge them, and it feels that way within the group. The belief is that we can beat these big teams, not getting nervous about every team we play in. We go out and want to win, we expect to win, and I think it’s been a little disappointing there this summer because we’ve come so close so many times. The flip side of that is that we know we’re not that far away, and we know we have better cricket in us too, and that’s what’s so exciting.”
Ireland’s Harry Tector

“It will certainly be a new exciting challenge for us. We played them in Ireland quite recently and we saw exactly what they could do. They improve series by series, we saw them against India, and they are a team you can do” don’t take it for granted.”
South Africa’s Aiden Markram

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